cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Friday, May 20, 2016

Because Anne

And because finals.  I never do these things, but Anne and Julie, you are both awesome.  So here goes...

A- Age: I'm better with age.

B- Biggest fear: that Donald Trump will be elected President

C- Current time:  6:43 a.m.

D- Drink you last had: Death Wish ™coffee

E- Every day starts with: Death Wish ™coffee

F- Favorite song:  Tweet Me Maybe

G- Ghosts, are they real? Definitely

H- Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

I- In love with: M.C. Escher

J- Jealous of:  Fawn

K- killed someone?:  No

L- Last time you cried?:  the other day from laughing so hard in the math office

M- Middle name: N/A

N- Number of siblings:   1

O- One wish:  truth and reconciliation

P- Person you last called: my mom

Q- Question you’re always asked:  Why "cheesemonkey"?

R- Reason to smile: Summer

S- Song last sang:  Let the Mystery Be

T- Time you woke up: 5 a.m.

U- Underwear color:  beige

V- Vacation destination:  anywhere the people I love are

W- Worst habit:  self-neglect

Y- Your favorite food:  pasta

X- X-Rays you’ve had: Teeth

Z- Zodiac sign: Cancer

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"De-tracking" Versus Mastery: Is This Our Dirtiest Little Secret...?

There has been so much heat and noise (and not very much light) on all sides of the so-called "de-tracking" debate, it has made me want to raise a question I have been thinking a lot about:
What is the difference between "tracking" (i.e., ability grouping, as in "high-," medium," or "low") and an SBG-style measure of mastery?
I ask because as someone who thinks about classroom instruction in a deeply Vygotskian way, I value the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) above almost all else in figuring out how to ensure that all my students receive meaningfully differentiated instruction.

But if there IS no reasonably common ZPD, there's no way I can see to differentiate — apart from simply allowing everybody to work at their own pace... in which case, what good am I in the room?

How do you make sense of this distinction?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Volume of a Pyramid: Proof by Play-Doh

This is the best idea I never had.

My colleague, Tom Chan, asked me in the Math Office this morning, "Where are you guys at?"

I told him, "We're on volume of a pyramid."

"Me too!" He's usually a pretty cool cucumber, so this caught me by surprise. He said, "We're doing proof of the volume formula by Play-Doh. Wait here a minute."

He dashed out and came back within a minute with a fist-sized cube made of three different colors of Play-Doh.

"Each table gets three little tubs (so three colors) and they have to make three identical pyramids that fit together into a cube. Then they can move on and do the next piece."

I was dumbfounded. The best I'd been able to do for today was to produce tiny, helpful diagram handouts to fit into our INBs.

But I'm bookmarking this for myself for next year by blogging it, and by giving full credit.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Algebra 1 quadratics — which method and why

When kids demonstrate that they don't yet have a solid-enough fluency to move on to deliberate practice with metacognitive reflection, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

That's what happened this morning with my second-block Algebra 1 class.

So during third block, I went to the library and started fishing in the MTBoS Search Engine. I wanted a card sort activity or an idea for one.

It didn't take long to find out that Dane Ehlert and Geoff Krall had already come to the same conclusion independently — and that they had even done some of the work for me!

Everybody's kids are at different levels when you slam into a new topic. So it's great to be able to find the structure of an activity that you can easily adapt to fit your own students' actual depth of knowledge.

This is why, even though I love a lot of the Shell Centre activities, I often find that MTBoS adaptations (or my own) are best for the reality of my classroom. They've given us some fantastic models to use in our actual teaching and learning.



Monday, March 21, 2016

What to do when strong students struggle

Jessica Lahey just posted this column on the New York Times web site and I think it may be the most important read I have seen for parents of the kinds of students I teach:

All students encounter struggle. Even strong students struggle. And when this happens, parents often ask me how they can make their child care more about doing better in math.

The only answer I know — the only answer I trust — is that you have to be willing to allow them to struggle.

Only then can they truly own their own success.

If they don't own their own failure, then they can't own their own success.

The eminent child psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs wrote about this more than 50 years ago, and it is as true now as it was then. You have to step back and let them own it. Dreikurs called this the practice of using natural and logical consequences. If the child doesn't own the problem, then s/he cannot own the solution.

I also love Dr. Charlotte Kasl's framing of this. She calls it the "Good luck with that!" response. I have seen this approach be very successful with students who have internalized a kind of passivity or learned helplessness that drives adults crazy. They have learned how to get adults to rescue them.

I think of this not as "tough love" or "grit" or a growth mindset. I think this is about the practice of maintaining — and helping adolescents learn how to maintain — strong, healthy boundaries.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Let the kids teach themselves how to do Talking Points

In thinking about the ways in which I try to push authority downward into student groups, I have been searching for ways to get my students to teach themselves about how to do Talking Points.

scene from the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Chapter on Inequalities
from the forthcoming mathematical
blockbuster, Harry Potter and the 
Chapter on Inequalities
So far, this has been by far my most successful method.

I have written "deleted scenes" from unmade (or yet-to-be-made) movies to introduce new concepts by having kids do a readers' theater activity instead of lecturing. So, I thought, why not do the same thing for Talking Points?

The results have been much better than I expected. Because all the voices and rules come to them through their own voices, they seem much more bought into the guidelines. They also act as their own enforcers of norms, rather than my having to circulate around the room constantly on the lookout for infractions.

So here is a link to my deleted scene for having kids teach themselves about Talking Points.

I will also be using this scene in my NCTM workshop on Talking Points next month.

Let me know what you think!